Waving his bat away from international cricket with the familiar motif of his team snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, Brian Lara appeared a composed man. He moved people for the one last time — the TV camera captured images of pretty women in tears, and creatures not so pretty also broke down.
Even if he was shaken by this outpour of public affection — he was, came the admission later — Lara did not allow the enormity of the occasion to take over. He was unfazed for the most of a long free-for-all media chat, with daughter Sydney by his side.
He was reluctant to answer questions on what transpired between the two after Marlon Samuels's late decision to retreat from a single on his own call resulted in Lara walking off for the last time. "These things happen," he said, terming it schoolboy error and saying "yes and no" when asked whether he got an apology.
There was not much talk about his finest hours, for the pain of leaving as captain of a sinking ship seemed overpowering.
"I thought I could arrest the decline, but things have not changed in the last 12 years. Even here, I thought of playing the final or at least the semifinals. The regret remains."
The happier part of it was evident, though. "I will now be able to go to sleep and wake up without thinking of all the things I have over 17 years. I will be able to take my daughter to school, spend time with her and do a lot of things I could not in many years. I will not be lost to West Indies cricket, though — I will be just a phone call away."
Not ruling out playing in any form of the game, the English county circuit or elsewhere, Lara said he was thinking of writing a book, had some business ideas and added that serving West Indies was also on the agenda. "I still have an important part to play. When the time comes, you can ask me more on that."
Talk turned to the happiness he has given the fans, and this is where the emotion came through. With a hall full of scribes listening in silent attention, Lara said the joy was about giving joy to others. In a world of big and false claims, this one appeared plastic in the beginning but that Lara was speaking from his soul became evident.
"I asked the crowd 'did I entertain?' I thought they said yes. If I have done that, I am happy. It was great to hear Clive Lloyd say he would have paid to watch me. Pearl and Bounty Lara (late parents) would have been very proud to know this. I have seen tears in the eyes of fans, it brought tears to my eyes too. That is the biggest satisfaction."
Then journalists from across the globe queued up for his autographs. It brought Lara back to what he has done for years — oblige worshippers. He did not refuse anyone and when he left, arms raised in acknowledgement, a spontaneous round of clapping broke the silence.
Why did he change his mind on England tour?
Brian Lara's interaction with the media left the most important question unanswered. Why did he retire after agreeing to tour England to play in the Tests? "All I can say is that in Antigua I had a chat with the selectors about England and I picked myself,” he said. “I’ve now realised this is the best time to quit."
A source close to the team, though, revealed more than Lara would: "His contract gets over after the World Cup. So the board decided to overrule that meeting.”
“The other possibility is that the selectors did not pick him as he said he had 'picked himself'. And he is not known to relent if he does not have his way.”
Lara will likely tell all in his book, and wait we must.